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Abortion access

Emails that we have received

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Introduction:

When we started this website in 1995-APR, there were many topics of great concern to religious and social conservatives in North America. Almost all were linked to human sexuality. Of these, the most important was abortion. Specifically it was related to a woman's access to abortion: If a pregnant woman and her physician decided that her best (or least worst) option was to have an abortion, should the government intrude and criminalize that action, require her to remain pregnant, and force her to eventually give birth against her wishes?

Since mid-2000, the main topic of concern to religious conservatives has shifted to homosexual rights. Specifically it is whether gays and lesbians should have the same rights as heterosexuals, including the right to marry or enter into a officially recognized relationship -- a civil union or domestic partnership -- which grants the same rights as marriage. However, abortion access remains their second most serious concern.

We have listed below some of the more interesting and challenging questions that we have received, with our answers. All identifying information has been removed from the Email. In many cases, we reworded the Email for reasons of clarity without significantly changing its meaning.

These Email exchanges contain personal opinions of one staff member at ReligiousTolerance.org. He is a social contrarian, and generally takes the opposite position from the one presented by the incoming Email. Since virtually all incoming Emails on abortion are from pro-lifers, his responses are typically pro-choice, even though he personally straddles the pro-life/pro-choice divide. His opinions do not necessarily agree with the diverse strongly held beliefs of the remaining staff members.

We have started a similar list on the other very controversial Christian topic: homosexuality and equal rights for homosexuals.

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"We cannot win" department:

Email: i think all of you deserve a good punishment for what you people do. Babies should not have to be killed for other peoples mistakes. There is adoption available for people that cant have kids. give them a chance. ... if you were to die, you wouldnt know where you could go because of all those innocent lives you've taken.

Response: Most Internet surfers seem to assume that any web site dealing with abortion must be either be radically pro-life or pro-choice. It never occurs to many of them that this website may explain both/all sides to the issue, and thus is neither pro-choice nor pro-life. In fact, among our five members, both sides are represented.

We get many Emails complaining that we are pro-choice baby killers, presumably from people who read something on one of our essays that explains the pro-choice position. We get many Emails complaining that we are pro-life oppressors of women, presumably from people who read something on one of our essays that explains the pro-life position.

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Same website; different views:

Just to show you how difficult it is to please all visitors to our site, the following were excerpted from two Emails sent by visitors living on two continents on the same day: 2000-NOV-22:

Emails:

bullet"Your one-sided view of the abortion controversy eliminates any question regarding which religious beliefs you approve of and which you don't. Religious tolerance, my a-s."
bullet"At last, a site that gives both sides of the debate!  Myself, being a teacher of Theology in <country deleted> Catholic public school, am unsurprisingly against procured abortions (what ever the nob-biased label ought to be).  However, your site is ideal for Advanced level (University Entrance) studies where they will be expected to look at more than one point of view, and as such, is now required reading for them.  Again, many thanks..."

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What if the aborted fetus was you?

Email: What if that person being pulled apart or sucked out of your mothers wound was you? you would not be able to have the life you have now or meet your only family. abortion should be illegal. wwjd? (what would jesus do) What if that was baby jesus you were killing? Think about all the babies lives you are ruining, you're responsible for every life you take.

Response: If anyone had been aborted as a fetus, then they would not be alive today to enjoy life. But then, if their mother did not engage in sexual behavior at the time they were conceived, then they wouldn't be alive today either. Not having sex can have the same result as having sex, conceiving and having an abortion.

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U.S. Constitution does not legalize abortions:

Email: An article on your site stated that anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional. You are dead wrong. The founding fathers of this country never put anything in the constitution about it being legal to have abortions.

Response: We are both right. The constitution contains nothing specific about abortion access. It doesn't discuss railways, television, contraceptives or the Internet either. But  the U.S. Supreme Court has been given the ultimate authority to interpret the constitution. And some decades ago, the Court decided that there was an implied freedom in the Constitution: the freedom to have personal privacy. That is, the Constitution restricts the degree to which governments may intrude in one's personal life. One result of this interpretation is that women have the right to essentially unlimited abortion access early in pregnancy. That is what the U.S. Supreme Court decided during 1973 in its Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion access. The court used the same argument to declare that consensual homosexual acts in private cannot be criminalized by the states.

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The U.S. Constitution guarantees babies the right to life:

Email: Try reading the First Amendment. Everyone has the right to life. Babies are part of that everyone. I hope you are smart enough to understand - abortion kills children.

Response: The First Amendment refers to freedom of speech, religion, assembly and to the right to petition the government. I suspect that you are referring to the Declaration of Independence that says that persons have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Declaration is a statement of principle and is not an enforceable law. Or perhaps you are referring to the Fifth Amendment which says that nobody shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." There are also federal laws that specifically guarantee persons the right to life. Everyone, except perhaps for a professor at Harvard and a very few of his supporters believe that newborns and infants are persons. They can only be deprived of life under very unusual circumstances. But you overlook one question....and it is really the main question when abortion is discussed: at what point in the process of gestation does personhood begin?

There is a general consensus that an ovum and spermatozoon are not persons; they two forms of human life because:

bulletThey are alive, and
bulletThey contain human DNA.

They can merge and become potential newborns. If the latter fertilizes the former, and if there is no miscarriage, and if if the woman does not have an abortion, and if nothing goes seriously wrong during the pregnancy, then a newborn enters the world. There is a consensus that a newborn is a person. But society cannot agree when personhood begins:

bulletSome believe that it happens many days before pregnancy begins, at conception. This is when a form of human life with a unique DNA is produced. 
bulletSome believe that it happens about 25 weeks gestation when the fetal brain develops to the point where it can sense its surroundings, feel pain and become conscious of itself. 
bulletSome believe that it happens at about 9 months gestation after the baby is born, is separated from its mother, and starts breathing on its own.
bulletSome argue in favor of other stages in pregnancy, for what they feel are valid reasons.

Until we can reach a consensus on when personhood begins, we cannot reach a consensus whether a particular abortion kills a person or a potential person.

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A woman's choice should be to not become pregnant:

Email: An actress on TV is pro-choice.  She believes that every woman should have the right to choose to be pregnant or not. As Christians, we know that the choice comes before a woman gets pregnant!

Response: I think that women might decide to not become pregnant, but find themselves in that state for a variety of reasons:

bulletMany women, and couples, decide to not start a pregnancy, and employ one or more contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy. But no system is foolproof. And women sometimes find themselves pregnant in spite of all reasonable precautions.
bulletSome women are raped; others are victims/survivors of incest. In the event that they become pregnant, many would like to terminate the pregnancy.
bulletOther women have inadequate information about how to avoid pregnancy. They are not taught about sexual reproduction in school because of parental objections, and so remain ignorant. Some actually believe that virgins cannot become pregnant. We occasionally hear from young women who believe that they can get pregnant through kissing. Again, they often find themselves pregnant.

Other women find themselves pregnant and want abortions for a number of reasons:

bulletSome fetuses have defective genes that will cause them to live only a few hours or days after birth, and never attain consciousness. Others will be born to a life of pain and die at a young age. Some women would like to obtain an abortion under these circumstances.
bulletMany women fit none of the above descriptions. They find themselves unable to handle the birth of a baby because of a lack of finances, or of emotional resources. If, after talking the situation over with their physician, they honestly believe that the embryo or fetus that they are carrying is not a human person, they might want to terminate the pregnancy.

Many people believe that, in at least some of the above cases, a woman should not be forced to continue with a pregnancy that she does not want. Enforced motherhood seems to many to be unjust.

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This list continues.

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Site navigation:

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Personal topics > here

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Copyright 2000 and 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-OCT-22
Latest update: 2008-MAR-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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